Good Mouth Bacteria are Necessary for Optimal Nitric Oxide Production: Are Common Dental Hygienic Practices Putting us at Risk for Heart Disease?
Recently, we published a study, showing that in humans the importance of oral nitrate in reducing bacteria in the production of nitric oxide. This is important because killing these bacteria can cause an increase in blood pressure. https://www.newswise.com/articles/new-study-by-nathan-bryan-phd-explains-why-the-early-formation-of-nitric-oxide-in-the-mouth-by-oral-bacteria-is-essential-to-health-including-the-management-of-blood-pressure.
In some cases, using mouthwash for only one week caused a more than 25 mmHg increase in blood pressure. The results and implications from this study are life changing. For the first time, we may have an explanation for the hypertension epidemic and why prescription drugs don’t always work to reduce blood pressure. This study demonstrates that we have missed the target and have focused on the wrong scientific pathways for answers.
Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of men and women worldwide. This is simply unacceptable since we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that cardiovascular disease is caused by a decrease in the production of nitric oxide. Every year approximately 610,000 people die from cardiovascular related events in the US alone. That’s one out of every 4 deaths. High blood pressure is the number one modifiable risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. Two out of three people in the US have an elevation in blood pressure. This is over 200,000,000 people. For every 1 mmHg increase in blood pressure starting at 110 mmHg in systolic blood pressure, this increases your risk of heart disease by 1%. So, if your systolic pressure or top number is 140, you have increased your chance of heart disease by 30%. According to the American Heart Association, only about half of the people who take blood pressure medicine have their blood pressure normalized and many of these people are taking 2-4 different prescription medications. Obviously taking more drugs is the wrong answer.
The microbiome has been a major story in science and medicine for the past 20 years. We now know that many diseases are caused by dysbiosis or disruption of good bacterial communities in the body. However, most of these studies and information comes from studying our gut bacteria. We have only recently begun to focus on oral bacteria. We have known for decades the importance of oral bacteria. Poor oral hygiene, people with periodontitis and gingivitis have an increased risk of dying from heart disease. In fact, oral bacteria have been found in the plaque of arteries of people who have died of heart attack. This led dentists and other health care practitioners to recommend using antiseptic mouthwash to kill the oral bacteria. The use of fluoride toothpaste increased. Recommendations to use antiseptic mouthwash was pushed by dentists and consumer product makers. Over prescribing antibiotics began to occur. All of these now common practices have now caused a serious problem. We know that along with the bad bacteria, there are good bacteria that are necessary for normal human metabolism. Killing the bad bacteria leads to the collateral damage and killing of the good bacteria. The consequences may be more damaging than we ever imagined.
We need nitrate reducing bacteria in the mouth in order to utilize the nitrate we get from eating green leafy vegetables in our diet. Without these bacteria, we do not get the cardiovascular benefits of eating a health diet. The nitrate reducing bacteria generate nitrite and nitric oxide which are both cardioprotective, reduce blood pressure and maintain normal cardiovascular function. At least 50% of our daily nitric oxide production comes from our diet and oral bacteria. Loss of nitric oxide production is the first step in the onset and development of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, anything that disrupts or interrupts nitric oxide puts our body at risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
This is our problem today. Every single day, over 200,000,000 Americans get up, brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste (which is antimicrobial) and use antiseptic mouthwash. There are over 250,000,000 million prescription written every year for antibiotics. Both practices kill the good bacteria along with the bad, putting our body at risk of a deficiency of nitric oxide production. It is time to re-evaluate our daily practices. The risks of using antiseptic mouthwash far outweigh the benefits. Doctors are too eager to prescribe antibiotics even for prophylactic reasons rather than let our own immune system do its job.
What is becoming increasingly clear is how critical and important nitric oxide is for our health and well-being. There is a clear and beneficial role of oral nitrate reducing bacteria to produce nitric oxide inside our bodies. Getting rid of these bacteria disrupts nitric oxide production and therefore disrupts every function in the body that is dependent upon nitric oxide, this include maintaining normal blood pressure, maintaining normal sexual function, cognition, memory, reducing inflammation and making sure every cell in our body gets the oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive and do its job.
It is important to remember to do the good things that are proven to improve nitric oxide production such as moderate physical exercise, eating a balanced diet enriched in green leady nitrate rich vegetables and deep breathing. Perhaps just as or more important, we must stop doing the things that disrupt our body’s ability to produce nitric oxide and this includes using antibacterial soaps, antiseptic mouthwash, overusing antibiotics as well as antacids. The human body is much smarter than we are. If we give the body what it needs, it heals itself. If we remove the barriers that disrupt how the body works, it begins to heal itself.
I think sometimes we have become to sophisticated in our daily practices. There is nothing more important to your health and well-being than making sure your body can produce nitric oxide. We should get out of our own way and let the body do what is designed to do. Heal thyself.